Coming alive

The Postal Service’s new Day of the Dead stamps were dedicated Sept. 30 at the El Paso Museum of Art in Texas.

Dia de los Muertos, as the holiday is called in Spanish, is celebrated Nov. 1-2, straddling the Roman Catholic feast days of All Saints Day and All Souls Day, respectively. It is an exuberant mashup of these holy days and millennia-old Indigenous Mexican traditions.

“In recent decades, Day of the Dead has caught on in the United States as a festive celebration for all ages,” said Michael J. Elston, secretary of the USPS Board of Governors, who served as the dedicating official.

The stamps are “a wonderful way to commemorate this colorful and life-affirming holiday,” he said.

The celebration — despite what can seem like ghoulish imagery, it is a joyful, festive occasion — centers around the idea that the spirits of the departed return to the land of the living every year during this brief window. Offerings of the spirits’ favorite food and drink are placed on altars bedecked with marigolds and crafts to lure them.

Decorated skulls, or calaveras, often made of sugar, are perhaps the most recognizable symbol of the holiday. Each of the four stamps features one, together forming a family: a mustachioed father, a mother with curls, a daughter with her hair in a bow, and another child.

Day of the Dead rose in prominence in the United States in the 1970s, when Chicano artists embraced the holiday as a means of venerating their heritage, uniting the Latin American community and educating the general public.

Today, celebrations are held nationwide, with skeleton costumes, face painting, music, special food and craft workshops.

The Forever stamps, available in panes of 20 at Post Offices and usps.com, were designed and illustrated by Luis Fitch. Antonio Alcalá provided the art direction.

Cybersecurity Awareness Month

October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, a time for employees to learn how to avoid scams and other pitfalls while online.

This year’s theme is Fight the Bait — Stay CyberSafe.”

Employees are encouraged to go to the CyberSafe at USPS Blue and LiteBlue pages to view interactive online security activities and informative videos.

The site also features:

Monthly awareness campaigns, including posters, infographics, articles and other online safety materials.

CyberSafe Guardians, a resource hub for the volunteers who encourage cybersecurity awareness best practices at postal facilities across the country.

Virtual awareness activities, which provide engaging best practices and USPS policy awareness activities tailored to individual teams.

CyberSafe Studio, a collection of short videos produced by the USPS Training and Awareness team, highlighting real-life cyberthreat scenarios.

Incident reporting, which promotes the USPS Report to CyberSafe initiative and steps to take if you’ve been a target by a phishing attack.

The CyberSafe at USPS team will update the site with additional National Cybersecurity Awareness Month materials throughout October.

Out in the cold

The Combined Federal Campaign’s cause of the week is that most essential of human needs, shelter.

The campaign quotes sociologist Matthew Desmond, whose 2015 book “Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City is a harrowing account of how easy it is to become homeless in America and the dire consequences of not having a roof over one’s head.

Housing is absolutely essential to human flourishing. Without stable shelter, it all falls apart,” Desmond said.

On any given night in 2019, more than half a million people in the United States did not have a home. Of those, 65 percent stayed in a homeless shelter, while the remaining 35 percent battled the elements and slept on sidewalks or in cars and parks.

The unsheltered spend most of their day searching for their next meal and sometimes go days, even weeks, without a shower or access to hygienic facilities and resources.

The comforts of home are elusive for far too many. Your donation to such causes provides the necessary funding for immediate relief and supports efforts to establish and build sustainable long-term security that can get people back on their feet.

If you are unsure of where to focus your giving in this category, the website for the campaign, also known as the CFC, makes it easy:

Under “Donors” on the homepage, choose “Online Charity Search” from the drop-down menu.

The second field is “Select a Specific Category.” From there, choose “Housing and Shelter.” Page after page of housing- and shelter-related charities can help guide your choice.

The Combined Federal Campaign is the federal government’s workplace charity drive. The latest campaign began Sept. 1 and runs through Jan. 15.

Participation in the CFC is voluntary.

The GiveCFC.org website has more information.

This is the third in a series of articles spotlighting the Combined Federal Campaign’s cause of the week. Next week: poverty.